Tuesday, June 18, 2019

What Does “Amazon’s Choice” Mean?

Louise Matsakis (via Hacker News):

The company says the award is given to “highly rated, well-priced products available to ship immediately.” But for many categories, dozens of options fit that description. How does Amazon choose its choices? Do humans have a hand in the decisions, or are they governed by an algorithm?


Amazon’s Choice was first introduced for Amazon Echo in 2015. The idea was to create a seamless shopping experience for voice, where consumers can’t see all the options laid out in front of them. If someone told their smartspeaker to “buy new towels,” Amazon could use their order history to figure out what brand they might have in mind. But if it was their first time purchasing the product on Amazon, the speaker needed a default option to suggest.


Amazon’s Choice is also particularly sensitive to the specific words consumers use when searching the site. Adding a word can result in entirely different recommendations.

Nicole Nguyen:

It’s a label automatically awarded to listings by an algorithm based on customer reviews, price, and whether the product is in stock. And those choices Amazon’s software makes aren’t always reliable — in fact, sometimes they’re Amazon-recommended crap.


One of the phrases Amazon highlights from the infant thermometer reviews is “waste your money.” Customers cite inaccurate and “terribly erratic” readings. One reviewer said the thermometer is advertised on Amazon as “good for adding to your baby registry,” despite the product’s instructions to “not use on newborns.”


Perhaps it’s why, for some categories, Amazon has started including “Editorial Recommendations,” based on actual testing by sites like Wirecutter, OutdoorGearLab, and Reviewed, to compensate for “Amazon’s Choice” screwups.

Nick Heer:

If we set aside the galling ethical faults with labelling trash as a “choice” product, this recommendations system cannot be good for Amazon’s reputation. They’re giving the impression that the company stands behind terrible products.

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